Massive fire that broke out in vacant Oak Bay home deemed suspicious
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Monday, June 4, 2018 11:15AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, June 4, 2018 6:43PM PDT
An Oak Bay home that has sat vacant for several years erupted into flames Sunday night in a fire that has been deemed suspicious.
Crews from Oak Bay Fire, Saanich Fire and Victoria Fire were called to a fully engulfed home at 57 Beach Drive at around 10:30 p.m.
More than 20 firefighters battled the blaze for four hours until it was finally extinguished.
A news release from Oak Bay police says there's no indication anyone was inside the home at the time of the fire.
Police said in a tweet the property is still "very dangerous" due to unstable rock walls.
The home has reportedly sat vacant since 2013, when it was damaged in another fire.
Neighbours say the home has been used by squatters since the last fire.
"I just wished something had been done earlier," said area resident Ralph Haywood. "We've been actually fighting quite a bit to get the thing sorted out."
Police confirmed to CTV News they've attended the home 16 times over the last several years for reports of trespassing, suspicious people and mischief.
"This one kind of fell through all the cracks legally, and so that's why we've ended up with the building being here as long as it has," said Oak Bay Fire Chief Dave Cockle.
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said the property's owners were looking at renovations or a rebuild and were granted a building permit in February.
"The hope was they would start rebuilding quickly thereafter. That didn't come to be because of the high cost of rebuilding," Jensen said.
He said a demolition of a home cannot be forced unless more than 75 per cent of the home has been damaged, or because it's a public safety issue due to the risk of walls coming down.
That wasn't the case after the first fire five years ago.
"The homeowners have been very good with staff as far as meeting the requirement of our current bylaw for securing the building and making sure that it is locked up and safe for people," said Cockle.
The owners now plan to demolish the building.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation and while they're not calling it arson, fire officials consider it suspicious.
Great Firefighting work last night by @OakBayFireDept @VictoriaFire730 @SaanichFire on a difficult access house fire. Clear common radio communications and dispatch ensured quick and safe #teamwork by FF’s #mutualaid #proudchief @DistrictOakBay @CityOfVictoria @saanich pic.twitter.com/B1JreHe00l— Dan Wood (@firechiefwood) June 4, 2018